Coalition Calls for Postal Banking

Originally published by ideastream, June 29, 2016.

A group of federal, state, and local government officials, postal workers, academics, and community leaders called for a re-institution of postal banking Tuesday evening. The event was organized by the group a Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.

Supporters of using the post office to provide banking services included Ohio Democratic Congressperson Marcy Kaptur. Kaptur helped bring attention to residents whose low incomes bar them from using traditional banks to open checking accounts or take out loans.

Speaking about Tuesday’s event, Cleveland’s President of the American Postal Workers’ Union Daleo Freeman said people living in so called banking deserts spend close to $2,400 a year on fees with alternative financial institutions, and that postal banking could help eliminate those costs.

“In Cleveland and around the country we have households spending an outrageous amount of money on check cashing and payday lending services,” Freeman said. “Because the post office is in every community everywhere, then this will be a great benefit to those ones who do not use banking on a day to day basis.”

Instead, Freeman says these households could use the post office for ATM withdrawals, electronic fund transfers, and even small loans.

A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service said almost half of Cleveland residents fall into “under-“ and “un-banked” categories.

President Howard Taft implemented a postal banking program that allowed patrons to open saving accounts in 1911, but that was discontinued in 1967. Re-instituting postal banking would not require legislation. Postmaster General Megan Brennan would only have to sign off on the reforms.

In the past few years, elected officials like Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren have voiced support of postal banking, while groups like the Independent Community Bankers of America and Republican lawmakers like Utah Congressperson Jason Chaffetz have voiced opposition.

Cleveland is the fifth of six stops by the Grand Alliance in cities nationwide to rally for postal banking. After the tour concludes, the coalition will submit a report to the United States Postal Service.